Watching the Watchmen

National_Security_Agency_headquarters,_Fort_Meade,_MarylandThe NSA’s leaks will have implications on the world stage.

by Alexander H. Maurice.

On June 5th, The Washington Post and The Guardian published top-secret information concerning NSA’s continuous monitoring of data related to all telephone calls originating in the USA. In the following weeks, news agencies around the world have published further information leaked to them by former NSA employee and consultant Edward Snowden. The reports draw from Snowden’s personal experience as an employee and a contractor of NSA and from confidential documents he acquired, including 41 PowerPoint slides on the operations of the NSA’s security apparatus. While the full policy impact of the leaked files remains to be seen, they’ve created ripples in America’s foreign relations.

The National Security Agency (NSA) is the cryptographic intelligence agency of the United States. Created under Truman as a key component of the American intelligence apparatus in the Cold War, the NSA has grown radically since then, and in the post-9/11 world comprises telephone and internet surveillance with operations around the world. However, while there have been security leaks in the past that have hinted at the extent of their surveillance, the wide reach of their surveillance programs hadn’t been confirmed until now.

After the first documents were published, United States Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released a statement admitting that for almost six years the NSA had been using large internet companies such as Facebook and Google to gather intelligence, but he said, “It cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, any other U.S. person, or anyone located within the United States.” While this statement, if true, may be reassuring American citizens, it does little to assuage the fears of foreign citizens from allied and non-allied states alike.

This is troubling for citizens of allied states such as the U.K. because, as The Independent and The Guardian point out, the PRISM surveillance program could have been used to …

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